Declan Moore is Managing Director of Moore Group, a multi-disciplinary environmental, planning and heritage resource management consultancy based in Galway, Ireland. You can find us on twitter @mooregroup or visit our blog here: and Declan is here on Google+

God Amend Thee, Sinner…

Most years so far the Day of Archaeology has coincided with the closing down of the west of Ireland, and in particular, Galway City and County. We’re in the middle of Festival Season with the Galway International Arts Festival just finishing and the Galway Races about to start.

Galway journalist, and ‘demonstrably the best rock ‘n’ roll interviewer in the world’, Olaf Tyaransen describes the feeling of all Galwegians well in a recent article:

“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left” – Victor Hugo

No sooner has the Arts Festival ended than the Galway Races begin. All bets are off with this one. It’s like a mad race to the bottom. The city becomes a giant vomitorium, you can’t get a seat in a restaurant (not even Supermacs), and the hospital emergency rooms – or rather room – jam up with weeping women in silly hats who’ve slipped on their impractical stilettos.

After the Races:

There’s the Tuam Arts Festival, the Roundstone Summer Fest, the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, Clifden Arts Week, and many more besides. Even the Aran Islands aren’t safe.

They have Tedfest. But that would be an ecumenical matter.

So, put simply, we’re in wind down at Moore Group. Most of us are getting away from the madness for the week. We’ll be taking ourselves away somewhere quiet and pleasant, where the noise of the helicopters and the chatter of the elites over their oysters and Guinness is a distant hum and a distant memory.

The Day of Archaeology therefore, revolves around tidying up all the outstanding jobs. Finishing and editing reports, getting out the all important invoices, chasing people for money, and by day’s end popping open a well deserved bottle of craft beer and leaving it all behind.

Beside me, my colleague Billy has been doing a bit of detective work – completing an assessment of a proposed development in a townland called ‘Goddamendy’.

He’s been investigating the origin of the townland name, which sometimes reveals clues as to the cultural heritage of the location. These names are a rich source of information for the land use, history, archaeology and folklore of an area. The placename can have a variety of language origins such as, Irish, Viking, Anglo-Norman and English. They can provide information on families, topographical features, and historical incidents. In terms of the built environment many names reference churches, fords, castles, raths, graveyards, roads and passes etc. Townlands are the smallest administrative land divisions used in Ireland and are in fact the only surviving administrative structure with a continuous history of development going back to medieval times if not earlier.

The names feature on the Ordnance Survey maps, the first edition of which was completed for the whole country circa 1842.  In the compilation of the Ordnance Survey scholars such as Eugene O’Curry and John O’Donovan were commissioned to provide the Survey with the anglicised forms of the Irish place-names, and it is these anglicised forms that have been in general use ever since.

Bill’s consulted the Placenames Database of Ireland – and Irish Names of Places by P.W. Joyce  to try to find the origin of ‘Goddamendy’, but had no luck with it.

Finally, Wikipedia tells him that the townland of Goddamendy is perhaps the only townland in Ireland containing a prayer in its name. Tradition has it that when a priest arrived late for the anointing of a dying man, the dead man’s relative cursed the priest, who replied “May God amend thee!”….

No citation for that, but it sounds reasonable to me.

I’m completing the report for a peatland survey we carried out along with wetland specialists last week. A total of 10 archaeological sightings representing five individual archaeological sites were identified during the survey. The sites identified consist of a Road – class 1 togher, a Road – class 3 togher and three sites classified as Structure – peatland.

The togher (trackway) is a substantial one of planks, roundwoods and limestone flags, identified in five locations and traced for 65 m running through the bog. Built with large timbers, roundwoods and limestone flags this togher represents a significant attempt to cross or access the bog.

Our GIS consultant, Nigel, of Impact GIS has created a lovely Photogrammetric model of the togher for your viewing and there’s a nice plan of it too.



For the smaller toghers, Professor Aidan O’Sullivan remarks in “Exploring past people’s interaction with wetland environments in Ireland” that “there is a growing sense that these were not structures designed to cross the bog, but to get into the bog”. Our trackway does appear to be aligned between two headlands so, in this case, it may have been an attempt to traverse the area. We’ve sampled it and will be forwarding for dating shortly. We anticipate an Early Bronze Age date, based on the depth within the bog it was noted.


Would ya ever just fulacht off with yourself*… Or Blog ‘Post Quem’

*Credit @voxhiberionacum

Our last three Days of Archaeology posts catalogue the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the collapse of the profession in Ireland, the challenges we face etc….

Being Irish, I find it very difficult to be optimistic and positive. I laugh at the motivational speakers, haven’t drank the Kool Aid of positive thinking and have always been a deep cynic. Pessimism seems to be our natural state as a people. Despite a slight economic upturn which appears to be reflected in the amount of archaeological work that’s out there, there’s a deep rooted cynicism within us which leads us to expect the worst.

But we did survive the famine, didn’t we (well, some of us did), and it’ll never be that bad again, surely?

This year Moore Group has been busier than any time in the past six years and we’re all feeling much more positive about the future. Maybe it’s just the fine weather which is infecting us with hope. Maybe it’ll all go wrong again tomorrow. Whatever happens, we woke up this morning feeling positive, with two gigs involving actual archaeology – so here’s our happy, happy, fun day of archaeology in tweets and video with some small explication.

So, early start for all of us. I make my way to a small town in North Galway to investigate a number of features we uncovered yesterday while testing for a proposed road widening scheme, while a second team travels to a midlands town to excavate a section of medieval town defences uncovered during the course of a water improvement scheme;

The principal feature we’ve encountered is a burnt mound or Fulacht Fiadh – You can read loads more about what we think these sites were for on our blog by clicking here or just go to our blog and type ‘beer’ into the search box. Here’s the primer:

The majority of Irish field monuments are defined by their names – a standing stone is a standing stone and a ringfort is a ringfort but not so the fulacht fiadh, characterised by its horseshoe-shaped mound and associated trough. The name derives from Geoffrey Keating’s seventeenth century manuscript Foras Feasa ar Eirinn and as a complete term does not appear in any early manuscripts. Conventional wisdom, based largely on M.J. O’Kelly’s 1952 experiments in Ballyvourney, Co. Cork suggests that they were used for cooking. John Waddell points out that ‘the fact that meat can be boiled in them does not prove that this was their main purpose’. Alternative theories that have been proposed include bathing, dyeing and tanning. It is however, generally agreed that their primary function was to heat water by depositing fired stones into a water-filled trough.

First job this morning is the clean back:

After a few hours we have a nice clean surface and can discern a possible trough feature:

After recording, surveying and drawing the features we dig a small trench into the possible trough feature and we discover that the base has some timber planking:

Here’s some of the responses to our tweeting of what some people think is a very dull and uninteresting site type (not our opinion)..

After recording we cover the burnt mound with geotextile so it’s ready for excavation in the coming months.

And then off up the road to another small site uncovered yesterday:

This one comprises a small burnt spread – some burnt stone and fire reddened clay.. quick survey and we’re done:

Meanwhile in a Midlands town our other team have encountered a wall during the course of monitoring a water scheme. The face of the wall  was exposed earlier during the week to a length of 4.4m and a maximum depth of 1.43m below the ground surface.  The face of the wall was not perfectly straight and bowed slightly giving the appearance that it may have started to turn slightly more towards a nearby river. It’s constructed of unworked limestone with a mixture of rectangular and rounded stones. There’s an evident batter  and we’re fairly convinced that its part of the towns medieval defenses:

By 2.30 pm we’re finished with the burnt mounds and ready to head home…

And then my Day of Archaeological becomes a long, long wait…

I try to Vine my misery, newspaper finished, bored with twitter, drizzle starting – but Vine crashes..

And finally at 5.15 my machine driver arrives – backfill can begin and our fulacht can be put back to bed.

Somewhat like the circumstances posted by Natasha Powers earlier I am limited in what I can post – I haven’t asked permission from my clients to post details of the where’s and whats… but here’s a hint from some of our recent findings as to where the burnt mound site was – Link.

And here’s a hint as to where the town defenses were found: Link.

And to round off a lovely day, my passenger Graeme identified a possible archaeological feature (another area of burning) in a recently ploughed field just beyond where we were working today – pictured below…








Surveying in Ireland

Today’s only anomaly

It’s now 10pm on the Friday night of the Day of Archaeology in Ireland…. and I’m just about finished for the week. I’ll be called away to get packing for a very brief holiday soon – so in this window of opportunity I’ll post this short entry. In previous years I’ve had the luxury of time to put together a cogent entry, but this evening I’m just about to kick back and relax, so forgive the brevity.

I run a very small commercial archaeology consultancy in the west of Ireland, at peak employing 18 people full time and a cohort of contractors. We’ve been reduced to three full time and two contractors today. This has created its own problems – we have the legacy of a bigger company, with a solid IT infrastructure but we’ve lost some very experienced staff.

Earlier today Charles posted on  ‘Picking up the pieces’ after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the problems of emigration, the resultant loss of knowledge and experience and the impact of economic failure on the cultural heritage sector, and it’s something that has affected us as well.

One element of that is that my role has become far busier – at one time I had the luxury of keeping up a consistent blog for the company, and was focussed on marketing and management – now that there’s only two full time archaeologists (me and Bill) and an ecologist (Ger), the job runs from accounting to assessment to  being out on site testing and monitoring, with a great deal of travel throughout Ireland, long days and long distances.

I started (very) early  this morning on a field survey in the East of Ireland  but was able to get back to the office by lunch. The survey was part of a large EIS for an infrastructure project and involved visiting farms to establish whether aerial anomalies were of archaeological potential or could be otherwise explained. One inspection was all that was required today. Didn’t find anything! Back in office the weeks notes had to be written up – smartphones are a lowercase godsend – all my field notes are voice recorded, my photographs are geolocated, I have a suite of maps on dropbox on the phone and just have to come back and transcribe the voice recordings (also georeferenced), upload the photos to Google Earth and remember to save everything in the right place. Paperless… That’s the aim.

Later, it’s time to complete the final draft of an EIS for a proposed gas pipeline which involves most of the afternoon working on GIS measuring distances and editing the text. A little bit of CAD work on another project brings me to dinnertime – This is something I thoroughly enjoy. I started in archaeology as a site illustrator and always enjoyed that role, doing the occasional digitisation and prettifying of site drawings these days is something I find hugely relaxing for some reason – maybe it’s all the nice colours and shades you can play with, or the uncomplicated nature of it.. I don’t know, it’s late and I’m tired.

Then – the dreaded invoicing, accounting and chasing money… less said about that the better.

And finally the day is rounded off with preparing a fee proposal. That takes me until 9… Bit of cleaning and packing and here we are, Worthingtons Red Shield and me. Goodnight from Ireland.


Festivals, Shoes, Maps and Beer in Galway, Ireland

Some rights reserved by Mikenan1 ( used under a creative commons licence

Moore Group is based in Galway, on Irelands rugged, windswept, wet west coast, and today marks the beginning of festival season in the City. So, despite the dreary weather, we’re all in festive mood here. The Volvo Round the World Yacht Race is due to finish in the harbour over the weekend, the Galway Arts Festival follows the week of festivities around the Yacht Race and the famous Galway Races follow that. Then, in early August we’re hosting our small boutique ‘Archaeology of Beer’ Festival in Headford, Co. Galway (Headfest). It’s been described as Ireland most boutique, boutique festival. This year, due to a lack of funding, we’ve downsized the gig, so it’ll be even more boutique!

This morning I’ve been focused on beer. I’ve been researching ancient recipes and brewing methods for a ‘wild’ beer. A wild beer is a beer which is fermented using windblown or other wild yeasts, and is something we’ve never really tried before. It could (and probably will) turn out awful… We’ve brewed two beers so far. One, a bog myrtle (Myrica Gale) and malt ale with some yarrow flavouring (Gale Ale), the second a simple hopped ale (so that people can taste the difference between a modern hopped ale and an ancient non-hopped herbal ‘gruit’ ale). We’ve already tasted our ‘Gale Ale’ and, it’s really nice, if I say so myself…. We had separated it into three batches – one is a ‘lighter’ ale of about 6% ABV, the second is stronger and is around 8% ABV and the third is a really strong 9.5% ABV ale. We’ve one more beer to brew and I’m trying to work out a recipe for next weeks brewday. On Headfest day we’ll be demonstrating our brewing in a replica fulacht fiadh using hot rocks to get our liquor to the right temperature. You can read more about our hot rock experiments on our blog

Unfortunately beer doesn’t pay the bills so we have other more mundane duties to perform today as well. I’m currently completing a constraints study on a large electricity infrastructure project. Essentially this entailed mapping and describing the existing, known, cultural heritage of the study area, using existing data sources and information. We’ve mapped all these data and today I have to review the mapping to ensure that it’s correct. It sounds dull, but there are some interesting diversions. For instance, comparing the first edition OS Maps with the second editions gives a picture of a remarkably changed landscape which mirrors the economic history of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Ireland. Despite the intervening famine there was huge development in the West of Ireland, with the construction of roads, railway lines, bridges and the introduction, and eventual dissipation, of large demesnes and designed landscapes. Whereas the early maps (surveyed in the 1830s and 1840s) depict remote clusters of houses and small landholdings in many cases reachable only by tracks, by the 1890’s or early 1900’s these remote locations are served by roads and other services.   Much of this growth in the latter part of the 19th century is down to the Napoleonic Wars when Ireland experienced a huge surge in economic circumstances (an early Celtic Tiger period) and the passing of the Land Acts in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century which eventually dissipated the power of the Anglo-Irish landed gentry and created a large sector of small landowners throughout the country.

My colleague Billy, meanwhile, is busy preparing finds for deposition in the National Museum, cataloguing and boxing… He’s currently looking at shoes.

A shoe from post medieval Galway

The shoe pieces (44 in all) were retrieved from the Market House excavation (for more on the excavation see here) during the course of the Eyre Square Re-enhancement Project in the middle of Galway City in 2004. Most of the fragments were retrieved from a rectangular test pit excavated across the centre of the site representing successive metalled surfaces and dump deposits pre-dating an 18th century building at the north end of Eyre Square. The majority of the pieces come from post-medieval contexts consisting largely of footwear fragments and off cuts. Shoes are fascinating (I’m serious)… Here’s an excerpt from Billy’s report:

“The shoe styles found share similar characteristics with comparative urban excavations in Cork and Waterford and more locally from Barrack lane, Galway. The most common shoe type of the medieval period was the turnshoe, made as the name suggests by stitching a wet and inside out leather upper to a sole and then turning it rightside out so that the sewing is protected. The upper would then be wrapped around the foot and secured by either a strap, latched or using a thong. This simple template evolved through time for utilitarian purposes or simply as fashion dictated. Heels were initially made by sewing stiffeners inside the shoe to prevent wearing.

From the sixteenth century onwards heels developed into a series of separate “lifts” (“built heel”) stacked and pinned or sewed together. Similarly the upper changed from a simple wraparound piece to an overshoe consisting of a ‘vamp’ or toe covering, quarters covering the inner and outer sides of the foot, the tongue, a piece of leather to the front placed between two sides of a tied opening and the back strap. Another common shoe feature was a welt (sometimes called rand) or strip of leather stitched along the lasting margin between the upper and the sole to protect the seam and make the shoe watertight. Common shoes of the second half of the eighteenth century were the heavy brogue and the knee length boot. The native brogue (after the Irish bróga, meaning shoe) was a low heeled, heavy shoe of un-tanned leather with laces along the instep and no tongue with small perforations on the toe puff and quarters. This hardwearing footwear was practically designed for country men as a shoe that would drain water and dry quickly due to the lack of a tongue, and not get stuck in the mud because of their laces above the ankle. Knee length boots were an English introduction and were more expensive and associated with the landed gentry, given the restrictive laws for horse ownership during the penal law era.

Concerning leather as a raw material, cow hide was generally used in the manufacture of most shoe soles, welts and binds – it being the strongest and most resilient of the available skins. For the uppers, calf, goat or sheep skin were the preferred choices for reasons of flexibility and comfort.”

See – I told you, Shoes are fascinating!

As archaeologists it’s the ordinary things we find which inform our discourse with the past and which give me most satisfaction. The big finds and the big sites are, of course, part of the process, but it’s the archaeology of the ordinary that keeps me interested – the shoes, the nails, the bottles and pot sherds, all of which tell us a story and fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

The Lion Tower and other walls, Galway, Ireland

For the first time in the history of the company, Moore Group’s team are not nursing hangovers this morning.

By that I don’t mean that it’s a daily occurrence. No. Today is the day after Ladies Day at the Galway Races. Traditionally we’d take the Thursday off to gamble, carouse and revel, dress in our finery and consume copious bottles of champagne, while we watched the fleets of helicopters land and deposit the more affluent racegoers (back when times were good there would be over 300 helicopters a day flying into the Galway Races). And today has traditionally been our recovery day.

We gave the Races our thirties but like the tycoons, we stayed away this year…

Galway Races

The Galway Races From Samuca’s Photostream

The West of Ireland generally closes down for this week of the year and the week coincides with the ‘builders’ holidays (It’s always struck me as odd that the rest of the Country and Non-Ireland continue as normal), so normally we close down for the Thursday and Friday.

But this year, we’re working like everyone else. Unfortunately the crèche isn’t, so my day of archaeology started with toddler transport and grandparent delivery (ie.. delivery of child to said grandparents – he gets to go the races today!). Fortified now with bacon and coffee, I’m back in my home office and preparing to complete a monitoring report. In recent months we’ve downsized and the remaining 4 Moore’s are working ‘in the cloud’. Three have taken the week as holidays and are relaxing at their respective destinations, save Billy, who, presumably, is busy in his home office writing up the notes from his weeks monitoring in Kells, Co. Meath and putting the final touches to an archaeological assessment of a proposed gas pipeline in Limerick.

The main archaeological feature I’ll be writing about in my report today is a section of the medieval bastion of Galway City which was exposed during excavation works for a gas pipeline in the middle of the city as well as the foundation to an earlier defensive tower called the Lion Tower. The bastion wall was found near the centre of Eglinton Street, between Tower House and Cube or Carbon nightclub (not sure which – they didn’t spell it with an initial K, though I’m sure they were tempted). The adjacent Lion Tower (and if there are Galway peeps reading – it is the Lion Tower and not the Lions Tower) foundation was found roughly 2m to the south east of the wall and consisted of a rubble foundation with an upper course of stone that appeared to be laid in an arc. We interpreted this as representing the circular base of the Lion Tower as depicted on the 1651 Pictorial map of Galway, although we had a very narrow area to work in and all the work was done in the evening with limited light.

The Lion Tower/City Bastion as it was in the 30’s (we encountered the foundations in the roadway this side of the second car and the tower foundation opposite the telephone box)

The bastion wall was in good condition and constituted a substantial foundation measuring approximately 2.6m in width built of roughly hewn limestone rubble blocks bonded with lime mortar. Preliminary work on either side of the wall exposed a fair face with a slight batter along the north west facing elevation, the south east face was more ragged. This section of the polygonal bastion was built around the earlier Lion Tower in 1646.

I normally spend the bulk of my time in the office, dealing with clients and potential clients, preparing prices and tenders, accounts and all that dull stuff. The rest of my time is in the field, monitoring pipelines or other construction related activity, site inspections or site visits for assessments of proposed developments, the occasional excavation (not too many of those around these days), and fieldwalking. My deep fear of animals of any description is a definite disadvantage, but I  persevere – sheep – I’m desperately frightened of sheep, and dolphins.

Twenty years ago, I stumbled into archaeology, 80’s Ireland presented precious little opportunities but an opportunity to work on an excavation came up after University and I was hooked. Of course, I’ve stumbled a few more times since.  Finding things like the bastion makes up for those dull days, as do the days when you find yourself up the top of a mountain, in driving rain, walking through deep bog up to your ankles.

In the early 1960s the late Prof G.A.Hayes-McCoy became a spokesperson for the preservation of the  landmark “Lion Tower” described and pictured above (actually a section of the bastion). The ultimate failure of that campaign was a great disappointment to him and he later said that Ireland was forgetful about its past and that “we don’t bother to find out about it or to maintain our ancient heritage”, and, of Galway; “take my own city of Galway, it is now more prosperous than it was, but it is no longer distinctive. I do not believe that it is essential for progress that we should lose our heritage”.

The Day of Archaeology and other initiatives can help in curing that forgetfulness. Well done to all involved – a fantastic initiative, let’s do it again…